Iran's leaders accused the opposition on Friday of trampling on the Islamic revolution, as hundreds of thousands marked the anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic republic.
In a stinging attack of the opposition movement just days before the June 12 anniversary of last year's disputed presidential poll, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei indicated that past loyalties would not be considered in judging the opposition leaders.
"One cannot say I am follower of Khomeini and then align with those who clearly and frankly carry the flag opposing the Imam (Khomeini) and Islam," Khamenei said in a speech at Khomeini's mausoleum in south Tehran.
"One cannot accept a person who claims to be a follower of Imam, while the US, Britain, CIA, Mosad, monarchists and hypocrites support him," the cleric said as crowds chanted "Khamenei is the leader!", "Death to America! Death to Israel! Death to England.!"
Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and former reformist president Mohammed Khatami, who were once rated as pillars of the regime, are being targeted by hardliners for opposing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election in June 2009.
Khamenei said the present situation is what matters and not past loyalties.
"For example, some came with the Imam from Paris and after a while due to treason were hanged," he said referring to Khomeini's flight from Paris where he was in exile to Tehran in 1979 which set off the revolution toppling the US-backed shah.
"So the criteria is today's position," he said, insisting that the regime would actually consolidate from any "plot" against it and adding the most important agenda of the regime was to combat "dominating and bullying powers."
Since Ahmadinejad's re-election which Mousavi and Karroubi claim was the result of mass vote rigging and still refuse to acknowledge it, Iran has been thrown into one of its worst crises which has led to a divided clergy.
In the post-election unrest dozens of people have been killed and hundreds wounded in clashes between opposition supporters and security forces, while thousands of reformists, journalists and political activists have been jailed.
Ahmadinejad too lashed out at his opponents in his own speech prior to Khamenei on the occasion, saying they will be "thrown away" by the people.
"Whoever deviates from the path of Imam (Khomeini), despite whatever power he holds, he will be thrown away by the strong hand of the people," Ahmadinejad said as people shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest).
The highly politicised atmosphere at the shrine saw crowds even heckling Hassan Khomeini, grandson of Khomeini, when he rose to address them.
"Listen friends, it is not more than 20 years since the Imam departed," an exasperated Hassan told the crowd before getting off the stage as people chanted "Death to Mousavi!"
As a proof of Hassan's proximity to opposition leaders, hardliners were seen distributing leaflets showing pictures of Hassan at an event along with opposition heavyweights Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami.
"Whatever we have, we owe it to the Imam," said chador-dressed Zahra, who had come to attend the memorial.
"We have come here to defend the revolution against the enemies," she told AFP as people chanted "Death to America!"
Late on Thursday, Karroubi himself was heckled by hardliners when he went to Khomeini shrine to pay homage.
Fars news agency reported that hardliners shouted slogans "Death to Hypocrites!" at Karroubi, after which his bodyguards escorted him away from the mausoleum.
Karroubi later said on his website Sahamnews that the country's Islamic regime was being ruined.
"They speak in a way as if the Imam belongs to them only and others have broken path with the Imam," said the reformist cleric.
"I am worried about the Islamic aspect of the regime. They have ruined the republic side of the regime in the name of Islam."
Officials say more than two million people were attending the Khomeini anniversary, including hundreds of thousands brought in buses from outside Tehran.
Men, women and children were even seen camping in tents around the shrine from Thursday night as free food and drinks flowed marking the occasion.
Friday's massive mobilisation comes a week before the June 12 anniversary of last year's disputed presidential election.
Source: AFP Global Edition